KudoS NIGHTLINE to a fair story, I finally feel portrayed fairly

Sapient
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KudoS NIGHTLINE to a fair story, I finally feel portrayed fairly

 

 

Kudos to you Nightline crew, John Berman, Karson Yiu, and Ethan Nelson! They took special care and time to piece together appropriate rebutals from our side of the table and match them up with the appropriate statements, very good journalism. I can see why these folks got an emmy.

HERE IS THE NIGHTLINE TEXT STORY:

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=2833103&page=1 (three pages)

PLEASE HAVE OUR BACKS AT THE NIGHTLINE FORUMS:

http://forums.go.com/abcnews/Nightline/forum?start=0&forumID=15&byThread=true

By JOHN BERMAN, ETHAN NELSON and KARSON YIU

Jan. 30, 2007— Brian "Sapient" is an average looking 30-year-old guy who works out of his basement in Northeast Philadelphia. His job? Well, Brian is taking on God.

"Wow, that's a dramatic way of putting it," says Brian, who asked that "Nightline" not identify him by his real last name for safety reasons. But however he defines his challenge, Sapient is on the leading edge of a new emboldened wave of atheism.

"There isn't any good reason to believe in God," asserts Brian. "It's that simple."

Watch the story on "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 p.m.

What's wrong with God?

"What's wrong with the Tooth Fairy?" asks Brian. "There's nothing wrong with something that most likely doesn't exist."

There are an estimated 20 million to 30 million atheists in the United States these days, and some of them say they feel like a persecuted minority.

"Atheists are completely vilified. And it's OK," says Kelly, an atheist who works alongside Brian and also asked that her last name not be used.

"It's actually OK to hate atheists," Kelly said. "We are like the last group that people overwhelmingly agree that it's OK to hate us, because there's an absurd caricature of atheism out there."

The Rational Response Squad

Brian and Kelly are co-founders of the Rational Response Squad. From Brian's basement they broadcast a weekly Internet radio show about God…or the lack thereof.

And recently they came up with a new way to publicize their cause. It is called the Blasphemy Challenge.

"Initially we wanted to find a way to allow atheists to come out of the closet, speak up and show other people that there are people that think like this," Brian says.

What they did was challenge people to make videos of themselves, denying, denouncing or blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and then post them on YouTube.

'We Are Not Scared of This Unforgiveable Sin'

"We wanted to do it in such a way where we stripped the power from religious institutions that instill fear in people," says Brian. "And we did that by blaspheming the Holy Spirit, by showing that we are not scared of this unforgivable sin."

The Bible says in Mark 3:29, "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."

While the passage is open to interpretation, the Rational Response Squad is taking it literally and challenging people to gamble with their eternal souls, and so far more than 800 people have taken the bet.

Some of the posts include Chandler, a young-looking man who says, "I've come to the conclusion that alongside the fact that there is no Santa Clause [sic] and there is no Easter bunny, there is also no god. So, without further ado, my name is Chandler and I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit."

Another: "My name is Joel. I deny the Holy Spirit, as well as god, Jesus, Buda [sic], Zeus, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, Sponge Bob, the pope, Santa Clause [sic], Mother Mary, the Easter Bunny, tooth fairy, Optimus Prime, all the saints and Spiderman."

Dozens and dozens have posted, including comedian Penn Jillette, who simply says, "I deny the Holy Spirit."

 

'Eternal Trouble'?

"I think how sad it is that someone would be rejecting hope essentially," says the Reverend Kathleen Liles, an Episcopalian minister, just one of many from the religious community who say this Internet challenge is misguided or worse.

"I think if people are courting blasphemy, going out of their way to cross that line, that is just dangerous," says Paul de Vries, the president of the non-denominational New York Divinity School which provides ministry training. "They might get themselves in eternal trouble."

But Brian responds, "We are showing people that we are not afraid of what they are afraid of. He is saying that he is afraid in that situation. He is saying how he would feel if he were doing it himself. He would be afraid. I am not."

Targeting Teens

Taking risks with your own soul is one thing, but the Rational Response Squad advertises for the Blasphemy Challenge on Web sites for teens, like Tiger Beat. Why?

"They have already been targeted," Brian says. "So hopefully they are at a point where they are not so indoctrinated and set in their ways that they can overcome this religious superstition that has been put into their brain unfairly."

Isn't that simply an attempt at indoctrination?

Brian says it isn't.

"We are not indoctrinating people," he says. "There is no fear of hell in what we do, in our activities. We don't tell people that if they do believe in God they are going to hell. We are against fear-based systems."

Brian wasn't always an atheist. He was raised Catholic, and became a born-again Christian when he was 13.

"That's what I was taught. And I really believed," Brian says. "I loved Jesus and he was my best friend and I talked to him and God all the time. I have to admit that they never talked back to me and I think some people would say that god does talk to them and I think they're not being honest with themselves."

'The Faith to Believe'

Reverend Liles says Brian is simply missing the point. Faith is not something that can or should be proven, she says.

"Faith is a gift, it is a mystery, as so many other gifts from God are,'" she says. "And when we open our hearts to God, then God will give us the faith to believe."

However Liles feels about atheism, it isn't going away and might even be getting stronger. Two of the best selling books on Publishers Weekly's Religion List are by atheists about atheism. There is a hard hitting documentary questioning the very existence of Jesus. There is even an atheists' lobby in Washington.

Brian's decidedly black and white rhetoric has won him many enemies. He has received hundreds of death threats from Christians using decidedly unchristian language — more four-letter words strung together in a row than you can imagine.

Like his last name, he keeps his address a secret for safety.

Despite the threats, the Rational Response Squad intends to keep Blasphemy Challenge going for some time: "Until the end of Christianity," he says.

The question they are asked, perhaps, most often is don't they worry their rhetoric and antics might land them in Hell?

"No, because hell doesn't exist," Kelly says.

Even if there was a one in a million shot that Hell existed, would they still be unworried?

Brian's response? "That would stink, huh?"

The jokes about hell, the whole Blasphemy Challenge, open them up to critics who say that whatever their views, their methods are simply disrespectful.

"If I knew that their belief system was wrong and I didn't say something, that would be much more disrespectful," Brian responds.

And to the billions of Christians who have believed for the past two thousand years, Brian says he is open to a dialogue.

"If they want to come to the table and present their evidence, I will present my evidence. And we will see how much of theirs is based on faith, and how much of mine is based on fact.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Angelic_Atheist
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Well, it looks like a fair

Well, it looks like a fair shake. I'll be sure to watch it.

We must favor verifiable evidence over private feeling. Otherwise we leave ourselves vulnerable to those who would obscure the truth.
~ Richard Dawkins


CrimsonSun99
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Wow! Most un-biased I've

Wow! Most un-biased I've seen yet!


Sapient
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updated the first post with

updated the first post with youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_n_UBK_Ex8

 

- Brian Sapient


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LeftofLarry
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I actually thought it was

I actually thought it was spun negative to Atheists. I don't think it was fair at all. The whole time I was watching I was getting the feeling that we (atheists) were being treated as the bad guys. I really did not think it was fair or balanced.  However, as I told Sapient before the recording of the interview: No Publicity is Bad Publicity.

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Vessel
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Kudos to you and Kelly,

Kudos to you and Kelly, Brian. Though I am not a big fan nor a participant in the blasphemy challenge I am a big fan of the rationality, intelligence, and personable demeanor which the two of you displayed on the program. It is about time we had atheists on television that look like the atheists I know, the scientists, the lawyers, the doctors, and not those who society bases their opinion of atheists as societies outcasts on.

*DISCLAIMER*

I am not trying to insinuate that any person atheist or otherwise is societies outcast. I am merely stating that it is the way the heavily tattooed and pierced combat boot wearing set is often seen by a large percentage of society, especially the religious percentage. I myself have a couple of tattoos so,obviously, no offense was meant. So, don't leer at me disapprovingly, freaks.

Now that I tried to cover my ass, again, congrats on an interview well given. Y'all were great. 

 

“Philosophers have argued for centuries about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but materialists have always known it depends on whether they are jitterbugging or dancing cheek to cheek" -- Tom Robbins


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The one thing I noticed was

The one thing I noticed was that the reporter incessantly attempted to get you all to say "We're right and everyone else is wrong." It seemed like it was a subtle way to make you appear arrogant.

You all did an excellent job deflecting the way the questions were posed with intelligent and well-crafted answers. You handled yourselves well.

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GodStoleMyFriends
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Very nice job handling

Very nice job handling yourselves Sapient and Kelly.

Overall the segment was relatively fair, however, I must agree with the point Susan made. At times the reporter seemed to be attempting to make you guys seem arrogant and the question about reaching out to people on websites inhabited by teens was very close to painting the RRS as bad guys.

I'm glad the RRS is getting more publicity though. The message is spreading and those who have a seed of doubt will listen and sift through any negative spin. Are we qualified to have a Wikipedia entry yet?

-Trey

"If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss Bank."-Woody Allen

"Atheism is life affirming in a way religion can never be."-Richard Dawkins


Sapient
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He asked that "you're right

He asked that "you're right and they're wrong question" about 10 times.  Sticking out tongue

 

GodStoleMyFriends wrote:

Are we qualified to have a Wikipedia entry yet?

Somebody added us again last week, and someone added Blasphemy Challenge.  Our favorite angry theist (Gravity) began attacking our RRS wiki right away, and a mod put Blasphemy Challenge up for speedy deletion.

I am not investing energy or time in such a horribly run org.  Let our wiki go, let it stay up, let it say we eat babies, I couldn't care less. 

- Brian Sapient


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GodStoleMyFriends
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Sapient wrote: I am not

Sapient wrote:

I am not investing energy or time in such a horribly run org. Let our wiki go, let it stay up, let it say we eat babies, I couldn't care less.

 That's the spirit!

"If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss Bank."-Woody Allen

"Atheism is life affirming in a way religion can never be."-Richard Dawkins


MattShizzle
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Yeah fuck Wikipedia - be

Yeah fuck Wikipedia - be cool if it was on that Encyclopedia Dramatica site though. I finally got around to watching the video and thought it was pretty fair - a lot more so than that bitch that barely let you get a word in a few weeks back.

Matt Shizzle has been banned from the Rational Response Squad website. This event shall provide an atmosphere more conducive to social growth. - Majority of the mod team


healthy.addictions
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*applauds*  Too bad they

*applauds*

 Too bad they can't all do this well...


goescrunch
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MattShizzle wrote: Yeah

MattShizzle wrote:
Yeah fuck Wikipedia - be cool if it was on that Encyclopedia Dramatica site though. I finally got around to watching the video and thought it was pretty fair - a lot more so than that bitch that barely let you get a word in a few weeks back.

 

Well then, here ya go! 

http://encyclopediadramatica.com/index.php/Blasphemy_challenge

So, what the hell is "neckbearded"? Also, they don't seem to know that it is connected with this website, they seem to think it's just some random drama...